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Thread: Read Immediately! Guide Concession Program bill seeks to limit your access!

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Default Read Immediately! Guide Concession Program bill seeks to limit your access!

    Background: Have been following and commenting on a bill now in the legislature, HB 158, which is in House Resources now, which would give DNR authority to implement and oversee a Guide Concession Program (GCP). Our org has been opposing this GCP for various reasons that I won't go into now.

    This GCP was pushed from the get-go by the Alaska Professional Hunters Assn. (APHA). And during hearings there have been quite a lot of APHA members testifying in favor of this bill, in favor for the GCP, and alluding that the problems of overcrowding and conflicts that the GCP ostensibly seeks to curb by limiting guides (and thus the # of total clients) is also very much about no limits on transporters and air taxis and the number of hunters (mostly residents btw) they fly out. And that something should also be done to limit that group of hunters if guides were to be limited.

    I was asked by one legislative office to comment about this issue of air taxis and transporters, if it was a "significant" part of the "overcrowding" issues brought up by so many guides. I explained that, first off, not all air-taxis are "transporters." Neither are they required to be a licensed transporter just because they fly out hunters. And that many air-taxis that fly out hunters choose not to be licensed transporters, because there is no benefit, only added fees and paperwork. And that the Big Game Commercial Services Board had sought a way to force all air-taxis that fly out hunters to become transporters, under the belief that then that Board could limit all those businesses, to no avail. And even if they could have forced all air-taxis to become transporters, the Dept of Law has still concluded that it would be illegal to impose limits on fly-out access for hunters. So while, yes, surely some overcrowding can happen via no limits on the # of hunters who can be flown out, if you think about it, it is the state of Alaska that sells unlimited hunting licenses, and the Board of Game that sets seasons and bag limits, draw hunts or open hunts, CUAs, and only the BOG can legally limit hunter access, per se, via a CUA or a draw hunt scenario.

    Anyway, such a big brouhaha was made over this air taxi/transporter issue by so many guides that the House Resources committee inserted committee substitute language yesterday, and here we get to the crux of this post. Here is the newly inserted amendment to the bill:
    Sec. 38,05.023. Big game transporter concession program.
    (a) The commissioner may implement a concession program or otherwise limit the number of
    individuals who provide transportation services to big game hunters in the field.
    (b) In implementing this section, the commissioner may gather relevant
    information from other state agencies, transporters licensed under AS 08.54, and other
    persons who provide transportation services to big game hunters.

    I hope it is crystal clear to everyone reading this what that above language means! Your access could be blocked by a program that all along was supposed to be about solving the issue of unlimited guides and their unlimited clients.

    Truly this boggles the mind. I urge everyone to write or call House Resources asap and oppose this bill so it doesn't pass out of committee tomorrow. Here is the contact info for House Resources committee aide, which is easiest way to get comments to the whole committee:

    Linda Hay
    House Resources Committee Aide
    Representative Eric Feige
    House Resources Co-Chair
    State Capitol Room 126
    907-465-3715 - Direct
    907-321-1249 - Cell
    linda.hay@akleg.gov

    Here is the link to the bill as it now stands:
    http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/g...=28&docid=4198

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    Holy Jesus, those guys are amazing. Thanks Mark for bringing this to our attention, it seems that there may have been some 'backdoor' dealing going on when the APHA gave its full support of the GSP. I am resident hunter that uses transportation services as much as I can, if this in some way impedes that, it's just another step in the commercialization of the resources for the few.

    Let's not forget a few years ago when the APHA spearheaded the SE AK drawing for blackies. I was and AM in favor of limiting the tags available to non-res hunters. Did it hurt my business, sure a bit, but F&G decided it was necessary and I trust our bio. What irked me was the amount of tags alloted to the guides. No draw, come hunt. I argued to lump the total of all non res tags into the draw and let the hunter decide if they want guided or unguided. Shot down. I don't fault the guides either, they obviously need to protect their own and I get that. Rest assured they don't have our well being in mind as they make decisions but why should they?

    The APHA is well organized and I have to give them credit for that. At our meeting all guides and the BOG led their questions by saying - "Due to the UNGUIDED NON-RESIDENT hunter blah, blah, blah. Good stuff, they did well. Sorry for my own rant off topic but it resonates I think.

    In closing I cannot support anything that could limit my hunting in the state. If I want to go hunt with 1000 of my closest friends I would put in for the Denali HWY tag. I'd rather fly out without having to race for one of the 3 spots their allowed per aircraft.

    What a never ending bunch of BS.

    Gooch
    Mike
    www.coffmancoveak.com
    Prince of Wales Island

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Got word that the email contact info for Linda Hay, House Resources Committee aide, is bouncing back. Not sure why, but here is another one I have:
    linda_hay@legis.state.ak.us

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    Member ERL's Avatar
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    This is a bad bill. If hunters, guides, or transporters need to be limited, they should be limited via the BOG by limiting the numers of tags or limiting access. This bill is completely unnecessary! I will be sure to give my opinions to this commitee.

    Sent from my ZTE-Z990G using Tapatalk 2

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    The linda.hay@akleg.gov should work. The second address you posted is the old system and the old system probably no longer forwards messages to the new addresses.
    All this does is lock out everyone but guides.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Mark,

    This is not a new idea, and it didn't necessarily originate with APHA. Yes, it appears that they are behind this one; I'm talking about times it was discussed before. This has been brewing for several years, and many of the operators with whom I've discussed this are in support, even though they know they will have fewer options and will make less money.

    The original intent is good, I think. It's an attempt to regulate a completely unregulated industry (in terms of operating areas and such). As you know, the guide industry is heavily controlled, in terms of where they can and cannot hunt. A given Registered Guide is only allowed up to three Guide Use Areas per regulatory year (for those who don't know, a Guide Use Area is usually a tiny fraction of a Game Management Subunit. A guide must conduct all his hunts within those confines).

    Air charters / transporters, on the other hand, may operate almost anywhere in the entire state in a given season, regardless of where they're based. This means that they can drop hunters off right on top of other hunters, guided or not. I have experienced that in the field on both guided and unguided hunts. In the heyday of the Mulchatna caribou hunts, we had commercial pilots flying around in search of camps with caribou antlers lying around, and literally dumping their hunters right on top of the other party. I know this for a fact, because I was told first-hand by pilots that were doing it. It was a real black eye on the whole industry. "But that was then", you say. Reel the tape forward to two weeks ago when I discovered that a well-known and respected air service that one of my unguided groups was using for a float hunt, discovered that their air service planned to drop two other groups of float hunters in there the same season; one group the day before my guys, ant the other the day after! It's a tiny river system with a stable moose density, but certainly not able to take that kind of pressure, to say nothing of the quality of the experience for all three groups. We're going elsewhere, and I cannot, in good conscience, send anyone with that air service again. It's too risky, and my reputation is on the line.

    I believe the intent is to force charters and transporters to spread out a bit, in order to alleviate this problem. In that respect, it should not have a negative effect on end users. There would still be commercial services available, but you may not have a dozen operators to choose from in a particular area. At that point, it would be up to the individual operators to avoid dropping their own hunters off on top of each other, and as the previous account illustrates, even that will not be enough. Some of them just don't get it. It's my understanding that we've been doing this in Kotzebue the last few years, and it seems to be working out okay.

    When you think about it from the hunter's perspective, what difference does it make whether they are limited in their choice of guides in a given area, or limited in their choice of air services in a given area? What's the difference? Either way, the hunter's choices are limited. And the result benefits everyone.

    Is there something about this that I am not seeing? I have not been following this as closely as you. And certainly we disagree that a concession program would significantly reduce the numbers of hunters in the field. We've discussed that before...

    Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    When you think about it from the hunter's perspective, what difference does it make whether they are limited in their choice of guides in a given area, or limited in their choice of air services in a given area? What's the difference? Either way, the hunter's choices are limited. And the result benefits everyone.
    Competition is good for the consumer, Mike. If the number of air taxis that can service a given area is restricted, there will be little control on the rates they charge and the quality of service that they need to provide. Yes, hunters could instead focus on different areas of the state, but not every area and experience can be replicated elsewhere. Currently those services that provide poor service suffer the consequences in reduced bookings or by being unable to charge premium rates. If such a service had their competition limited, however, they would be insulated - at least in part - from the results of their poor operation. The results of limited choices most certainly do not benefit everyone - they certainly don't benefit the hunter would would like a choice in guides or air taxis. You know very well that not every guide or air service offers the same level of service.

    Competition is good for every industry, be it mechanics, restaurants, air taxis, or guide services. If hunter numbers need to be restricted, the appropriate venue is the Board of Game via shortened seasons, controlled use areas, registration/drawing permits, or residency requirements. From where I stand, this is horrible legislation...though I have not worked in this industry and could be missing something.

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    Less air charters in an area means they would only be able to handle
    x amount of clients, thus less people in an area. That's pretty straight forward.

    As for spreading out...to where??! There's only so much accessible and huntable country out there, and I think most ofmitmis already getting hit.

    One poster was right before, this is bog's job. Go drawing and fix the problem altogether.

    Look at the wrangells, only one or two transporters and one or two guides...already limited and how many threads have we read about guys who can't get in there?!
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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BRWNBR View Post
    Less air charters in an area means they would only be able to handle
    x amount of clients, thus less people in an area. That's pretty straight forward.

    As for spreading out...to where??! There's only so much accessible and huntable country out there, and I think most ofmitmis already getting hit.

    One poster was right before, this is bog's job. Go drawing and fix the problem altogether.

    Look at the wrangells, only one or two transporters and one or two guides...already limited and how many threads have we read about guys who can't get in there?!
    Jake, I have a group going out this fall to a well-known river for moose this fall. Turns out they are the only group in there this year. It's loaded with moose. My point is, it's a huge state. There is plenty of room if we spread out. This hunt is not a "creative access" situation. Pretty straightforward gravel bar landing, no Super Cub involved either. It certainly can be done. We're doing it.

    Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    Jake, I have a group going out this fall to a well-known river for moose this fall. Turns out they are the only group in there this year. It's loaded with moose. My point is, it's a huge state. There is plenty of room if we spread out. This hunt is not a "creative access" situation. Pretty straightforward gravel bar landing, no Super Cub involved either. It certainly can be done. We're doing it.

    Mike

    Is it a harvest ticket area? If so, how do you know they're going to be the only group out there?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Competition is good for the consumer, Mike. If the number of air taxis that can service a given area is restricted, there will be little control on the rates they charge and the quality of service that they need to provide. Yes, hunters could instead focus on different areas of the state, but not every area and experience can be replicated elsewhere. Currently those services that provide poor service suffer the consequences in reduced bookings or by being unable to charge premium rates. If such a service had their competition limited, however, they would be insulated - at least in part - from the results of their poor operation. The results of limited choices most certainly do not benefit everyone - they certainly don't benefit the hunter would would like a choice in guides or air taxis. You know very well that not every guide or air service offers the same level of service.

    Competition is good for every industry, be it mechanics, restaurants, air taxis, or guide services. If hunter numbers need to be restricted, the appropriate venue is the Board of Game via shortened seasons, controlled use areas, registration/drawing permits, or residency requirements. From where I stand, this is horrible legislation...though I have not worked in this industry and could be missing something.

    Brian,

    The reason I threw the guides in my post with the air services is to show the huge disparity between how hunters feel about having fewer choices when it comes to guides. But limit the transporters and we scream bloody murder. Obviously it's easier to tolerate restrictions when they happen to someone else. Guides have lived with this, in various forms, for years.

    The market alone will not weed out bad commercial operators of any kind. Some years ago I asked the owner of a very large air service why he didn't seem to care that his pilots were dumping hunters off on top of each other. His reply, that he "didn't care about repeat customers because there were ten more lined up behind them" shocked me. The best way to weed out the bad ones is through reporting and regulation. Get a bad reputation, trash the place, whatever, you are weeded out by not having your permit renewed. That's what the Feds are doing with guides on federal land, and it seems to work.

    Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    The market alone will not weed out bad commercial operators of any kind.
    Perhaps not, but it certainly doesn't help the resident hunter to have limited options for air transporters. To suggest that such a system would benefit everyone just doesn't pass the straight face test. I don't use air taxis very often, but in the past two years I have done a couple of big hunts (by my standards) and have use air transport twice. Both times I had a choice of at least four services. I chose the one with the best service and reputation and am certainly glad I had that choice, as the experiences we had were awesome and the same could not be said of some of those who chose a different service. Competition benefits everyone. Personally, I don't like seeing guides restricted as they are, either. I would far rather see the total # of non-resident hunters limited while allowing all guides to compete for those clients. In that case you would see what occurs in every industry - the best would thrive, the marginal would eke by, and the incompetent would fail.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Perhaps not, but it certainly doesn't help the resident hunter to have limited options for air transporters. To suggest that such a system would benefit everyone just doesn't pass the straight face test. I don't use air taxis very often, but in the past two years I have done a couple of big hunts (by my standards) and have use air transport twice. Both times I had a choice of at least four services. I chose the one with the best service and reputation and am certainly glad I had that choice, as the experiences we had were awesome and the same could not be said of some of those who chose a different service. Competition benefits everyone. Personally, I don't like seeing guides restricted as they are, either. I would far rather see the total # of non-resident hunters limited while allowing all guides to compete for those clients. In that case you would see what occurs in every industry - the best would thrive, the marginal would eke by, and the incompetent would fail.

    I partially agree with you. Choice does have an effect on price, to an extent. On the other hand, if we are hunting areas that happen to have only one or two operators, we are quick to accuse them of gouging, if the prices seem high. He can tell us that right now AVGAS in the bush is running over $9 a gallon (it is), but we don't hear it. All we see is the $4K we have to pay.

    Limiting nonresident hunters is a whole different topic of course. My position on that is pretty well documented here.

    This is a complicated subject, but I am very hesitant to ascribe much more to it than just an effort to bring some sanity to a crazy air service situation in Alaska.

    Mike
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    Mr. Strahan, your favoritism to guides, since you are a guide, is obvious. But your also a hunt planner. I can't believe you would support laws that limit free trade. How can you plan hunts if there the transporters are limited and booked full. Your hunt planner biz will suffer from this if it is enacted.

    Thanks Mark for bringing this out. What a bunch of doggie doo! Need to get the ACs alerted. There is already a lot of angst against guides and non res. This will only increase that!!.
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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DucksAndDogs View Post
    Is it a harvest ticket area? If so, how do you know they're going to be the only group out there?
    There's only one air service.

    Mike
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    Mike if we all spread out your moose hunters wouldn't be alone either.
    There would be no alone anymore. Plus thank teir one for compressing the moose hunting. Look at the increase in teir I tag holders, those are a bunch of moose hunters that aren't gonna be out there.
    If they truly wanted less congestion they would just limit hunting opportunity. This is just a sidebar stuck in some paperwork so they could progress on a different issue

    There's never only one air service. There just might only be one that charges people. I have probably a dozen planes within a quarter mile of my house alone....
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    I partially agree with you. Choice does have an effect on price, to an extent. On the other hand, if we are hunting areas that happen to have only one or two operators, we are quick to accuse them of gouging, if the prices seem high. He can tell us that right now AVGAS in the bush is running over $9 a gallon (it is), but we don't hear it. All we see is the $4K we have to pay.
    Price is a very minor concern of mine, Mike. My much larger concern is the quality of the operation. I could have saved money on my last fly-in hunt, but I chose to go with a more expensive service because their reputation was far better than the one who charged less. That's as it should be. It's the same reason why when I go out to eat I generally pay between $10-20 for a plate rather than getting a $6 special at McDonalds. Quality counts and is worth paying for in many cases. If our choices are restricted by legislative fiat, though, consumers won't have the option of choosing the higher quality air service - they'll just have to suck it up and take what they can get.

    Your story of the service that treated customers poorly is a prime example, Mike. If that service got exclusive access to an area, do you really think they would start treating their customers better? The same thing would still hold true - they would still have an endless line of new customers after they burnt their current customers - but now hunters who did their research and knew of their poor service record wouldn't have the option to take their money elsewhere if they wanted to hunt within that exclusive area.

    I cannot see how this proposal helps the resident hunter who wants quality service from their air carrier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    There's only one air service.

    Mike
    No disrespect intended here Mike, but isn't that exactly what the issue is?

    "There's only one air service, I am on their "list" and as such privy to info and intel the common hunter isn't."

    I don't deal with the hunting side, but as a fly out rafting (fishing) guide it's glaringly obvious where many air taxi's sit on this issue, and competition means less coin in their pockets......
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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BRWNBR View Post
    Mike if we all spread out your moose hunters wouldn't be alone either.
    There would be no alone anymore. Plus thank teir one for compressing the moose hunting. Look at the increase in teir I tag holders, those are a bunch of moose hunters that aren't gonna be out there.
    If they truly wanted less congestion they would just limit hunting opportunity. This is just a sidebar stuck in some paperwork so they could progress on a different issue

    There's never only one air service. There just might only be one that charges people. I have probably a dozen planes within a quarter mile of my house alone....
    As you know, circumstances differ across the state. The example I gave rebuts your suggestion that there's nowhere to go, That's not true. You and I have seen the vastness of Alaska from the windows of many a bush plane, and I'm sure you came to the same realization I did years ago. There is a LOT of country out there that is never touched, simply because of access issues. But we also know that there is a whole passel of pilots out there who are, one by one, figuring out how to get into some of these areas. There are many places that don't see a soul in a given year. I've floated over 180 miles before and didn't see a boot track. It's there, all right.

    Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
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    Good banter fellas I appreciate reading everyones take. I do have to make a correction to my above post, the draw in SE was not spearheaded by the APHA it was in response to a need that was recognized by the F&G department and the BOG. As I stated I supported the draw. The APHA was instrumental in helping the guides keep their tags and not have to draw. That I did not support. I apologize, my mistake.

    As a side, I am not anti guide - far from it I guide sometimes here in AK. I just don't like losing opprutunity. I'm done.
    Mike
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